Clark County at Work: Autumn's Auto Lube

By Mary Ricks, Columbian news assistant

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Business name: Autumn's Auto Lube.

Owner: Autumn Lonstad.

Address: 14015 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd.

What the business does: Autumn's Auto Lube owner Autumn Lonstad said she tries to focus on being a complete preventative maintenance shop which can provide service for just about any type of vehicle.

Automotive shops are often places that take advantage of female customers with pressure sales, Lonstad believes. As a woman-owned business, she said her shop is different. Her goal is to help women be confident by teaching them about their cars. Since the shop isn't part of a big national chain, Lonstad is able to take care of her customers' needs first without worrying about meeting sales quotas or bonus schedules.

Steps to build your business: Lonstad relies heavily on client referrals and word of mouth. Typically her customers become clients for life. She wants people to be happy they came to her shop so that they'll send friends and family there. Lonstad also uses social networking for marketing -- running weekly and daily specials on Facebook. She is involved with the community and sponsors several events and youth team activities. She also sponsors The Diamond Tea, which empowers women from Clark County and the greater Portland-metro area.

Greatest challenge: Keeping pace with the advancement of the technology in newer vehicles is the biggest stumbling block, and something that we continually educate our staff on, Lonstad said. The computing power of the newer cars is light years beyond yesterday's most advanced desktop computers and maintaining lock-step with them is crucial in a top-tier, fast-lube environment.

Lonstad's crew prides themselves on knowing about specialty lubricants and the litany of sensors that need to be periodically reset.

The vast majority of fast-lube and auto-shop operators are male, so often there is a chilling effect that moves from vendors to customers' perception on what a woman should know about cars. It is difficult at times to escape the "She's just a girl, she must not know anything about cars" assumption that invariably occurs. Lonstad said there is far more to a well-run, fast-lubrication facility than simply the nuts and bolts.

What's ahead: Lonstad has sponsorships and networking events planned soon, along with mini sponsorships with local schools and sporting events. In her first year in business, she was runner up for Best of Clark County. In 2013 she was rated Best of Clark County for Oil Changes and runner up for Automotive Repair. Her goal in 2014 is to win the Best in Clark County for both categories.

Owner's business history: After being a stay-at-home mom, Lonstad found herself needing a job. Through the relationship she had built with the owner of a local lube shop, she got into the business by chance. Now, 10 years later, she has her own shop in the same industry that gave her an employment opportunity. When she started working in the lube shop, she did not even know how to put air in a tire. Lonstad tries to run her business like an old-fashioned service station rather than a "quick lube" shop.

Year established in Clark County: 2011.

Employees: Six.

Telephone: 360-433-9611.

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Email:autumnsautolube.@gmail.com

Website:http://www.autumnsautolube.com

Facebook: Use link on website.